How to Make List Building WORK for Your Small Business

Over the years you’ve heard it a million times. “Build your list!” the marketing experts screamed. And you, a diligent and hopeful small business owner, took their advice. You gathered names and email addresses, stored them in spreadsheets and Outlook, and maybe even moved up to an email marketing program like MailChimp or Aweber. And then…nothing happened. The list that was supposed to drive your business forward did not live up to the hype. So you turned back to old and familiar marketing methods and became convinced that these ‘experts’ do not truly understand the small business space.

If this sounds familiar, then you absolutely have to hear my latest interview with Guy Marion, CMO of Autopilot, a user-friendly SMB marketing automation platform designed with a visual, open, and connected interface. He too champions for list building BUT emphasizes that it’s what you do with your list that really matters.

The Lowest Hanging Fruit

Guy says that the first thing you need to do as a startup or business is to build your email database. Why? Because it is difficult and expensive to find new leads, and as you continue to grow in the future, you can always return to your current contacts, who are the easiest, lowest hanging fruit for a small business owner.

That said, you can’t just build a list and let it sit there. No matter what happens with your business, you must stay in touch with your contacts in interesting manners, in ways that educate them, and in ways that they will like and share.

“64 percent of top marketers in our recent research report are in touch with their customers at least every week.”

When you don’t regularly stay in contact with your list, you are missing opportunities.

“The stats are that 25 percent of leads that come to a website or company are ready to engage today. The other 75 percent aren’t, but half of those will be within 12 months. That’s some of the lowest hanging fruit you ever have as a growth person.”

With engaging content, you will catch those leads when they are ready to become customers.

Your List Is Not Homogenous

Some of you reading this have now realized that list building failed for you because you did not maintain frequent contact. However others, I’m sure, are saying “But I’ve done this and haven’t seen results!” Perhaps you have even set up a newsletter that you send to your list each week using an email marketing platform like MailChimp. According to Guy, your problem may be with how you are treating your list.

Marketing automation programs like Autopilot are a ‘next step up' from email marketing tools; they allow you to segment your list instead of treating it as a uniform whole. As Guy explains it:

“Where the email marketing platforms stop and marketing automation begins is when you go from wanting to send a one-size-fits-all follow-up stream to someone filling out a form, to being able to provide more tailored, personalized and contextual messaging experiences.”

And it works. As Guy explains in the interview, the social media platform Pinterest used to send the same onboarding emails to everyone – messages created for the ‘typical’ users, females from North America. Now they have segmented their list to provided tailored messages based on the contact’s details (gender, location, etc.), and have seen an uptick in initial activation and engagement.

Making the Sale

Segmenting your list can also help you determine when to go in for the sale and who you should be targeting.

In the interview, Guy shares the story of Simple Green Smoothies, which started out as a self-proclaimed mommy blog and grew to several million followers on social media. When the founders decided that it was time to turn it into a business, they started by inviting their contacts to smoothie challenges as a fun way to engage. They could then segment those who participated in the challenges and nurture them into buying books and challenge packets. This skilled use of list building and segmentation has helped them transition from a large, loyal online community into a business with steady-streaming revenue.

My interview with Guy definitely proves that it is what you do with your list that matters and even the smallest business can transition to a marketing automation program like Autopilot to get serious about their contacts and create better relationships.

“There is never a time when, as a startup or a small business, you don’t want to be creating a better experience for your users.”

Take the first step today by listening to the full interview below.

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